And HASHEM appeared to him in the plains of Mamre, and he was sitting at the entrance of the tent when the day was hot. (Breishis 18:1)
Suddenly a seeming small detail jumped out at me that I had never spent much time considering. Every jot and diddle in Torah is Holy. Why should Moshe transcribe by the word of HASHEM and why should scribes expend precious ink and time to tell us and tell us where HASHEM appeared to Avraham? Why the plains of Mamre?
Well, I’m not alone. Rashi was troubled by the same question and he tells us that Mamre was a trusted colleague of Avraham who had advised him about making a Bris. Well it seems that the Bris and the Divine presence that rested on Avraham after the Bris should be in his territory and that it should be recorded in the Torah for all time as a reward for his supportive role. So we see how valuable it is to encourage others to do the right thing.
It doesn’t end there. What was Mamre’s advice? I found in The Zohar HaNiglah the rest of the story. When Avraham was commanded to make a Bris at the age of 99 years old he consulted with two friends. One friend, Anar told Avraham, “Your 99 years old, do you want to make yourself sick!?” Mamre reminded Avraham that HASHEM had saved him from the fires in Ohr Kasdim, during the famine that brought him down to Egypt, and in the war of the four kings and five kings. With those words, Avraham proceeded to make the Bris!
Now, the big question! Why did Avraham have to ask advice? HASHEM commanded him. It’s not a discussion, it’s a Divine mandate. When it came time for the Akeida, HASHEM says, “NA” – “please” and with a request that could seem optional he was willing to defy all public opinions, internal voices of reasonable resistance, and raging rivers of physical opposition to sacrifice his beloved son. Why over here is there a need to ask for council?
The answer is right nearby. When HASHEM was visiting Avraham on the 3rd day after his Bris, guests suddenly arrived and Avraham, so to speak, put HASHEM on hold, and ran to attend to the needs of the guests. The Talmud says that from here we learn that it is better to greet guests than to entertain the Divine Presence. One of my dear Rebbes asked, “Very nice, but where did Avraham learn it?” His answer was, as the verse testifies, “He saw and he ran”. His feet decided!
After his Bris, the numerical value of his new name was boosted to 248 equal to the limbs of the human anatomy. The body is a garment for the soul. It’s like a glove designed for each digit of the hand. If the body is impure then there are impediments that keep the hand from fitting into the glove neatly. Imagine a coarse wool glove filled with glass and foul materials. Which sensitive hand would feel comfortable residing in that space?! After Avraham’s Bris his soul entered the body like a trained surgeon’s hand in a latex glove. The body offers zero resistance and is perfectly responsive to the desires of the soul which wants only to express the will of its Creator. The biggest proof this is so is that by the Akeida, Avraham is described as sending out his hand to take the knife to Shecht his son. He had to force his hand, because ultimately it was not what HASHEM really wanted him to do.
So before the Bris and up until the Bris Avraham was like the Beinoni described in Sefer Tanya. “The in between man” struggles with contrary tendencies but eventually decides and overrides those opposing forces and he does the right thing. There is a battle! Post op, after the Bris, Avraham Avinu graduated to the level of a complete Tzadik where there is no longer an internal struggle but rather, the primary instinct is only to do the will of HASHEM. Armed with this information, we have a glimpse into the depths of his truly human struggle and the height of his super human achievement.